US data brightens economic outlook
The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits dropped for a third straight week last week, the latest indication the labour market recovery was gaining traction.
Other data on Thursday showed a spike in the cost of gasoline pushed up producer prices last month, but the lack of broad price pressures gives the Federal Reserve scope to maintain its very accommodative monetary policy stance even as the job market strengthens.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 332,000, the Labour Department said. Economists polled by Reuters had expected first-time applications for jobless aid to rise to 350,000.
The four-week moving average for new claims, a better measure of labour market trends, fell 2,750 to 346,750, the lowest level in five years - suggesting a firming in underlying labor market conditions.
The report follows news last week that non-farm payrolls increased 236,000 in February, with the unemployment rate falling to a four-year low of 7.7 per cent.